Stinespring's crafty play call gave Hokies the lead vs. N.C. State
Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring's one-day renaissance as a play caller was defined by one play Saturday against North Carolina State. Just before the snap, ABC analyst Ed Cunningham told viewers, "To me, this feels like if you don't score a touchdown, you get the sense N.C. State is gonna do something offensively." At the time, Virginia Tech trailed the Wolfpack, 27-21.
So Stinespring "dialed up" a variation of a play he had seen Louisiana State run a few years ago. The Hokies came out in what looked to be a five-wide receiver set on second and goal. Only this wasn't an ordinary spread formation.
Starting left tackle Andrew Lanier, a converted tight end, was lined up on the line of scrimmage wide to the right of the formation as an eligible receiver along with wideout Dyrell Roberts. Also with them to the right of the formation, offset from the line of scrimmage, was wide receiver Jarrett Boykin. In Lanier's place at left tackle was tight end Andre Smith, and outside to the left were running back Darren Evans and wide receiver Danny Coale.
When the Hokies practiced the play during the week, Stinespring told Lanier over and over again that he could not go forward at the snap of the ball. Instead, Lanier was to run a bubble screen route, so Virginia Tech would have the necessary seven players along the line of scrimmage.
"There’s gotta be enough people on the line of scrimmage and you also want to make sure everyone was eligible because if you're not eligible, they're not gonna cover you," Stinespring explained. "We wanted [North Carolina State] to understand, those two guys to the weak side, they had to bring somebody out there to cover so when you did release Andre, there shouldn’t be anybody home because they knew that they had eligible receivers to cover.”
At the snap, Smith broke from the left tackle position and leaked into the end zone uncovered. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor moved to his right in the pocket because he was now without a left tackle. Lanier ran gingerly towards Virginia tech's sideline, mindful that he was staying behind the line of scrimmage. Taylor then found Smith easily and threw a bullet that gave Virginia Tech a touchdown and its first lead of the game early in the fourth quarter. Take a look at the play for yourself below (skip to about the 10:30 mark):
I wrote pretty extensively about the pressure facing Stinespring last week, and the embattled coach responded this past weekend by helping to lead a 34-point explosion in the second half that propelled Virginia Tech to its comeback victory over the Wolfpack.
Stinespring has gotten pretty good over the years about shrugging off the criticism that's come his way, but it was clear against the Wolfpack that he'd heard the rumblings about his underachieving, and some would say predictable, offense.
The Hokies opened with pass plays on six of their first eight snaps. They went to three- and four-wide receiver sets more often. Stinespring called more option plays than usual, to get quarterback Tyrod Taylor in space along with running backs Darren Evans and David Wilson. Some of the adjustments worked, some didn't, but to many critics it was a relief that he at least tried something different.
But Stinespring's greatest accomplishment Saturday was Virginia Tech's improvement in the red zone. In three trips inside the Wolfpack's 20-yard line, the Hokies scored three touchdowns. Previously, they had converted just nine of their previous 18 chances into six points.
| October 6, 2010; 2:03 PM ET
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